Turkey to hold NATO talks with Sweden next Thursday

"The time is now to welcome Sweden as a full member of NATO."
Swedish, and NATO flags are set up prior to the signing ceremony of the law ratifying the NATO Protocol on Finland and Sweden’s membership in Gdynia, Poland, in July 22 (Photo: MATEUSZ SLODKOWSKI/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)
Swedish, and NATO flags are set up prior to the signing ceremony of the law ratifying the NATO Protocol on Finland and Sweden’s membership in Gdynia, Poland, in July 22 (Photo: MATEUSZ SLODKOWSKI/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

The top diplomats from Turkey and Sweden will meet at NATO headquarters next Thursday for talks on Stockholm's bid to join the alliance, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said. 

"The time is now to welcome Sweden as a full member of NATO," Stoltenberg said at a news conference on Wednesday.

NATO counterparts have been pushing Turkey to grant the green light to Sweden by the time a summit is held in Lithuania on July 11-12.

But Ankara is still holding out after months of stalling Stockholm's push to join the US-led military alliance.

Hungary's parliament had been expected to vote on Sweden's bid by the end of its "extraordinary summer session" on July 7, but did not list it this week as an order of business for the session.

Stoltenberg said earlier this week that the talks would include the foreign ministers and intelligence advisors from the Turkey, Sweden and Finland. 

Sweden and Finland last year reversed decades of hesitation and formally applied to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine, which had unsuccessfully sought to enter the alliance whose members promise to defend one another.

But decisions must be unanimous and Turkey has used its leverage to push the two countries over the presence of Kurdish militants.

Turkey dropped its objections to Sweden's nordic neighbour Finland joining earlier in the year and Helsinki became a NATO member in April. 

Sweden has been a NATO "invitee" since June 2022, but its membership bid, which must be ratified by all 31 member states, has been blocked by Turkey and Hungary.

Western officials have hoped Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would soften his position on the diplomatically charged issue after he secured a hard-fought re-election last month.

Western allies and Stockholm have insisted that Sweden has met the terms of a deal agreed with Ankara last year.

That accord includes a commitment to crack down on opposition Kurdish movements, such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK, blacklisted by Ankara which considers them "terrorist" groups.

Turkey dropped objections to Sweden's nordic neighbour Finland joining earlier in the year and Helsinki became a NATO member in April.